Buying a Single Serve Brewer or Coffee Maker

Person picking up a coffee pod.
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There's no doubt that single-serve brewers can bring home the wonderful gourmet coffee shop experience at a fraction of the price, and these savings can add up over a year. So if you can get your coffee fix at home, why hesitate and not rush out right now to buy a single serve brewer?

Single cup brewing is a different way of making coffee altogether and there are a few things to consider with this style of coffee maker so you can be happy with your purchase.

Types of Single Serve Coffee Machines

There are various types of single-serve brewers and they're not the same when it comes to what they can brew. It's best to confirm before you buy to be sure that it can make the type of coffee or tea you like. Popular brands include Keurig®, Nespresso®, Tassimo®. There are also several brands of standard coffee makers that can brew single serve, K-cups, or pods.

You're an espresso lover—you may want a specialty coffee machine that only brews this type of coffee, or with perhaps the ability to make cappuccino or lattes also. Espresso machines vary in features and the ability to do part of the process for you or you can choose a fully automatic machine.

These machines are more involved and this article focuses more on single-serve brewers. If espresso is not for you, a single-serve brewer that offers a variety of creamy lattes, regular or gourmet coffees, and teas may be perfect for you.

Single-serve brewers differ considerably in price, so let the availability of coffees/teas/hot chocolate for a certain brewer be your first buying consideration. The function is limited or enhanced by the supply and variety of pods, K-Cups, or capsules you can get for it.

Operating Costs

A single serve brewer means you need a supply of either pods, capsules, or K-Cups at an approximate cost of $.30 to $.70 per cup. You can save by buying bulk but you're locked into that specific type of capsule in order to make use of your coffee maker.

Find a source of supply and make sure you like the types of coffees/teas it can brew, before deciding on a model. Be prepared to pay more for a single server, they tend to cost more up-front than regular coffee makers and the cost of buying capsules can add up quickly. Though consumption can vary, an estimate of how many cups of coffee/tea you drink can give you an idea of on-going costs for budget purposes.

Capacity and Cup Selections

While some single serve brewers will brew only one size of a cup, some models offer more flexibility with several options and this can be very handy. A 10 to 12 oz. brew size is best for a travel mug (if the machine design allows for tall cups), while those who love espresso may want a 4 to 5 oz. cup size.

Consider how many persons will be using the brewer and whether the cup options are suitable for everyone. Brew strength can be adjusted by selecting a different cup option and this is a nice feature. Water reservoir size may not be a consideration for some, but for two or three adults, a larger tank means less filling.

Power and Performance

Power affects performance as well as brewing temperature and speed. So make sure you can safely plug in a 1200 to 1500 watt brewer, where you expect to place it, without overloading your electrical system.

Brewing noise may also be a consideration for some. Look for a quiet feature, though you should expect some brewing operating noise. Programmable clock and brew temperature features can be very convenient.

Some brewers keep an internal water tank heated and ready to brew—that means it draws energy full time unless there's an on/off setting, which is preferred for energy savings. Even a sleep mode can be handy when you're absent. These coffee machines only need a couple of minutes to be ready to brew. Also, look for durability features and ease of maintenance.

Brewer Ease of Use

Some single-serve machines are more user-friendly than others, but generally, capsule, pod, or K-cup brewers require little effort, if any. The guesswork has been replaced with a single-serve pellet and the brewer does the rest with the result being a perfect cup of gourmet coffee or tea.

These brewers are big on convenience, saving time, and making clean-up as quick and painless as possible. Do look at the water reservoir—it should remove easily for filling, and read the product manual to learn about scale removal and regular maintenance along with special features you may not have noticed.

Function and Features

Most single-serve machines will brew coffee only, while some, such as the Keurig, can also brew teas and/or iced beverages. If you're hooked on lattes and cappuccinos, you may prefer a pod-style of brewer such as Senseo or if espresso is your passion, a Nespresso may be the better choice.

That's why reviewing the coffees, teas, or hot chocolates available for the brewer is a must. The varieties are constantly expanding. Cup height access is also very important—a brewer that allows enough height to accommodate tall cups/glasses is better. Some models have removable drip trays that extend the height.

Physical Size Considerations

While some kitchens can accommodate any size coffee maker, others have limited counter space and appliances are juggled as needed. To operate properly, a single-serve brewer should be placed on a secure, stable counter or platform, preferably within easy access to water for refilling. Consider the height of the area where you want to place your new brewer.

There are usually about 17 inches between a kitchen counter and upper cabinets, and that's usually adequate for most brewers. Some models are tall with a wide footprint and that might be a buying consideration. You'll use it more if you can keep it handy on the counter.

Single Serve Brewer vs. Regular Drip Coffee Maker

Single-serve brewers simplify yet enhance coffee brewing and once you latch on to the gourmet coffee taste, it's hard to go back to a standard brew. But with the on-going costs of coffee capsules, this is not a budget way to make coffee, especially when there are several people to serve. That's where a backup regular coffee maker can save the day.

For various brew strength preferences, a standard coffee maker allows more choice when it comes to custom blends. A single serve machine may cost more to operate than a standard brewer, but if it replaces an expensive coffee shop habit, you'll recoup these costs quickly.

Be a Smart Shopper

Take time to compare prices and read reviews to learn more about the product you're considering buying. Depending on your outlay for a single serve brewer, you may want to consider an extended service contract after you've reviewed the product warranty. After your purchase, remember to read your product manual to learn about features and maintenance.

Buying a Single Serve Brewer for the Office

A single-serve gourmet coffee brewer is ideal for an office setting—there's less clean-up and it's quick to brew. Staff will also love the gourmet blend varieties and not have to run out to the nearest coffee shop for their fix.

A home brewer may be suitable for a couple of people but for larger office staff, a commercial unit is a must if you want it to last. A brewer with several cup size options is more suitable as is one that also brews teas and hot chocolates. A good on-hand supply and variety of capsules is a must. Other things to consider are water reservoir size and room to accommodate a travel mug. 

Coffee Brewer Accessories

If a reusable filter is available for your preferred brewer, you can brew your own blend of coffees more economically. Keurig makes a reasonably priced My K-Cup™ reusable filter for use with their home brewing systems. It works quite well and can save you money instead of always buying K-Cups.

Other accessories that may be convenient to have on hand are water filter replacements and a descaling solution. Pod or K-Cup or Vue carousels and racks make access and choice more convenient. It's also a good idea to buy an assortment of coffees/teas for your new brewer until you decide on some favorites.